By Cindy Schwarz
Realistically, how does anyone say, “no,” to a grown child moving back home? Especially when this person asking for shelter is not only your daughter but also a new single parent. Returning with her two daughters, and with the soon-to-be "ex" incarcerated on drug related charges, my daughter seemed relieved to come back home. For me, I felt tempered resignation and continued to struggle to hold my tongue and my “mother’s all-knowing-ness.” As a result, my nerves were fraying like tatty cuffs.
When my daughter and granddaughters moved in, I was already near my limit. Tumult had surrounded our last few years with my son-in-law’s pseudo-hidden agenda: daily drug use. To support his habit, most often he stole from family- her jewelry and class ring, my waitress money, then strangers - feigning handyman expertise, then businesses- stolen items returned without receipt, exchanged for gift cards. All along my daughter maintained she was oblivious to his broken life. I had trouble rationalizing this blindness, and it just made me angrier and angrier. How did she not see this? I kept hammering into the remnants of my sensibility.
When the three girls moved in, my house was suddenly in disarray. To accommodate them, I schlepped my life into the smaller of two bedrooms, relinquishing the master to them. She complained about being given "just one room." I reasoned it was large enough for closeness and thought she should be more thankful for the accommodations I was making. And then the grandchildren sought constant attention, exacerbated by the shame of having a father in prison, to which I couldn’t help but respond.
So went 14 months of our family life. We rehashed the “unseen” several times as shouts of accusations bounced off granite counter tops. Both my daughter and I sought counseling, but we still drifted apart as the strain grew between us, dense as frozen orange juice.
But we eventually found our ways- for her, serving the internet-generated divorce papers to the inmate and finding a new love interest. She spent weekends juggling kids to ex-inlaws and pursuing a highlighted relationship. In the quiet peace, I painted and pondered, but I still couldn’t hold back from pitching sentiments and expletives upon her Sunday evening return. I was only able to quell my fury when I decided to return to college, finally figuring out I mattered too.
Realistically, how does a parent say “no” to a grown child moving back home? “N-O,” that’s how. But then, saying “no” can mean stopping the forward progression that is life. I just have to be more careful to look out for myself amid my best intentions to help my grown child.